I tasted my first Sazerac on a cold winter night at Southern Accent Southern Accent in Toronto's Mirvish Village. Its warming effects were not lost on me.
A distinctive blend of whiskey, absinthe (mine was Pernod, a modern-day substitute), bitters, and sugar, the Sazerac is fabled to be the very first American cocktail, concocted in the 1830s by an apothecary named Peychaud in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Although the recipe only calls for a few drops, the Peychaud's bitters form the cornerstone of the cocktail. Their spicy, herbal flavor contrasts with the cool anise of the pastis, and the smooth base of the rye, creating a complex, layered effect.
In the voodoo-tinged, quasi-blaxploitation James Bond flick, Live and Let Die (1973), Agent 007 (Roger Moore, left) joins CIA man Felix Leiter (David Hedison, right) for a drink in the fictional bar, Fillet of Soul. His request for "bourbon, no ice," gets a veto from Leiter, "Where's your sense of adventure, James? This is New Orleans. Relax!" He orders two Sazeracs instead.
While Leiter's called away to the phone, an elevator shaft opens in the floor, and James is under the table before the drinks have even arrived. Such a waste.
2 oz. rye whiskey
dash of Peychaud's bitters
1 tsp. Pernod (or other pastis)
1 tsp. sugar (or sugar cube)
sliver of lemon peel
Pour the pastis into a chilled cocktail glass, rolling it around to coat the sides, and then pour out the excess. In a separate mixing glass, add the sugar, muddle with a few drops of bitters, and then add the rye. Add several ice cubes and stir gently. Strain into the cocktail glass. Twist a sliver of lemon peel over the glass, but do not add it to the drink.